By Brigadier General Robert Ferrell, U.S. AFRICOM’s director of C4 Systems
On Saturday September 18th, 2010 I had the honor of being the guest speaker at the annual U.S. Wereth Memorial ceremony for the 11 World War II Soldiers of the 333rd Field Artillery Battalion (FA BN), in Wereth, Belgium.
A little history of the “Wereth 11”: On 17 December 1944, during the Battle of the Bulge, the 333rd FA BN came under fire by the German SS Army. Eleven African American Soldiers became separated from their unit.
Cold, tired, hungry and wet, they came upon the farm of Mathias and Mary Langer and their children. The Langer Family took them in, fed them, and allowed them to rest. However, it was not long before they were discovered by the SS. The soldiers were removed them from the Langer home, and savagely massacred. Because of the ongoing fighting and heavy snowfall during that winter, the bodies weren’t discovered until the snow melted the following spring.
In 1994, for the 50th anniversary of the Battle of the Bulge, Herman Langer–one of the Langer children that was present in the home in December 1944, along with some of his relatives erected a stone cross at the edge of their field where the Soldiers were massacred. Since then, a non-profit organization has been developed. A permanent memorial has been erected to honor and remember these men on the massacre site, and the non-profit group continues to work towards its goal of having the Wereth 11 Memorial site be recognized by the American Battle Monuments Commission.
Before the ceremony began, the Langer Family invited my wife Monique and I, and several other guests, to view the room where the family fed and hid the Soldiers. Being in the room was a very moving experience for us. We then participated in a procession that traced the steps of the Soldiers from the Langer home to the site in the cow pasture where they were massacred and the memorial now stands.
The memorial ceremony was attended by military personnel including MG Baron Bagby, Director, Allied Joint Forces Headquarters, Brunssum, Blegium, CSM and Mrs. Allan Fairley, Command Sergeant Major, US Army Garrison, Benelux, Belgium and other military personnel who travelled from Landstuhl, Heidelberg, and Benelux military communities. Also in attendance were Mayor Schumacker, Mayor of Wereth; Ms. Anne Marie Noel-Simon, President of the US Wereth Memorial; members of the Langer family–Herman, Tina, Anneliese and Marion: and many other community members and supporters of the Wereth Memorial.
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